E-cigarettes getting more and more popular

NJOY e-cigaretteHow mainstream are e-cigarettes these days? Last week this writer found a starter kit advertised for $19.99 at the cash register of his local 7-Eleven in Manhattan’s TriBeCa district. Well, if they’re good enough for Katherine Heigl...

The NJOY mini-kit came with an e-cigarette, USB charger and two nicotine cartridges. After letting it charge, ACSH staffers were vaping during ourDispatch meeting this morning. (Yes, really).

We were impressed by the device’s realism, including a tip that glows red when you take a drag. “It does a great job of mimicking a ‘real’ cigarette,” says Dr. Whelan.Gil smoking

While this writer — who has never smoked cigarettes before — had a bit of a coughing fit after taking too deep a drag, most staffers didn’t notice anything after taking a few puffs and exhaling an odorless vapor.

“It’s not designed to give you a thrill or a high,” explains Dr. Ross, a former smoker. “But addicted smokers would most likely feel it satisfied their desire to have a cigarette.”

According to the NJOY user’s guide, the made-in-China e-cigarette “has never been tested or proven to be a smoking cessation device and is not sold or marketed as such.” The guide says the nicotine cartridge consists of “four major ingredients”: water, nicotine, flavoring and proplyene glycol. ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom, a chemist, says propylene glycol is a common ingredient in propellants such as asthma inhalers and is metabolized by the body into pyruvic acid, which is a natural breakdown product of glucose— “so it’s essentially natural.”

lana smoking“Propylene glycol has been used safely for decades. Other than the nicotine, there’s nothing remotely dangerous in these e-cigarettes, and it’s easy to see why it would help smokers quit,” adds Dr. Ross. “The only entity to have found toxic diethylene glycol in an e-cigarette is the FDA, but it’s unlikely that the maker would have used that toxin instead of the benign propellant. I suspect the FDA made an error.”

Addendum 11/9/2010: We received several concerned comments and even some phone calls from Dispatch readers who were troubled by our electronic cigarette item yesterday portraying ACSH staffers “vaping.” We would like to make clear that we don’t condone the use of e-cigarettes by anyone other than addicted smokers who have already tried to quit without success (none of which applies to us!). We see the devices as a form of harm reduction, as a means of reducing the 400,000-plus smoking-related deaths in this country each year. While we tried a few puffs, we’re not planning on taking up an e-cigarette habit, and in fact, the camera-happy device has been retired to the ACSH Hall of Fame — so chillax concerned Dispatch readers!